East and West

The Twin Towers of Civilization

"At the height of the uprising, people marched in Bonn, Rome, London, Tokyo, New York and dozens of other cities around the world; students in universities revolted..."

The Twin Towers of Civilization

I've always been obsessed with ambiences and aesthetics as well as dérive, détournement and other ways of changing the tone of my everyday life. Guy Debord and the Situationists are my heroes. They were the first to sense that something had gone terribly wrong at the heart of our culture – that a stultifying boredom and sameness was creeping into our lives. They plotted a revolution to overthrow "the society of the spectacle." Their approach was very effective: don't argue with people, make them live!

And in 1968, people suddenly did. In Paris, they took to the streets, erected barricades, fought with police, occupied offices, factories, hospitals, railway depots and universities. They sang songs, issued manifestos, and sprayed slogans like ‘Live Without Dead Time' and ‘Down With The Spectacular-Commodity Culture,' all over their city.

"Art students demanded the realization of art; music students called for ‘wild and ephemeral music;' footballers kicked out managers with the slogan ‘football to the football players;' gravediggers occupied cemeteries; doctors, nurses and the interns at a psychiatric hospital organized in solidarity with the inmates," wrote Sadie Plant in The Most Radical Gesture. "People who had worked in offices and factories all their lives suddenly broke from their daily routines and… lived."

"People who had worked in offices and factories all their lives suddenly broke from their daily routines and… lived."

At the height of the uprising, people marched in Bonn, Rome, London, Tokyo, New York and dozens of other cities around the world; students in universities revolted. For a few heady weeks, a tantalizing question hung in the air: Could this be the beginning of the first global revolution?

But the spell broke. The moment passed. This revolt against consumer capitalism was not to be. And since then, for the past 40 years, we've descended deeper and deeper into the spectacle. It's omnipresent now. We're in it and it's in us. We're living in what Debord, in the last years of his life, described as the "integrated spectacle," characterized by "incessant technological renewal; integration of state and economy; generalized secrecy; unanswerable lies; an eternal present."

If we could see beyond the incessant commercial chatter of our everyday lives, we would realize that our Western way of life has reached a dead end… that the twin towers of our civilization – scientific rationality and individual freedom – crashed to the ground a long time ago.

And we would realize that the only thing that can save us now are infusions of new blood from other civilizations: heavy hits of spontaneity from Brazil, inspirational flows of group consciousness from Japan, fusions of filial piety from China and India and constant whiffs of religious devotion from the Islamic world.

In this issue of Adbusters, we sift through the detritus of Western civilization to see what we can salvage. If you find something, let me know.

For the Wild, Kalle

80 comments on the article “The Twin Towers of Civilization”

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Anonymous

"In this issue of Adbusters, we sift through the detritus of Western civilization to see what we can salvage. If you find something, let me know."

How about Videogames? movies? What about all of our art? There are thousands of people publishing home made art online. What about consumer culture? Some people actually enjoy it. They are just people, doing what our instincts tell us to do, consume. Just because you think it's wrong doesn't make it objectively so.

I can look through any issue of adbusters and see the same shit. The same monotonous disparaging statements and threats, unaccompanied by evidence.

You are dogmatic. And dogmatism renders any ideology dead no matter how dissident.

Let people do what they want to do. Just don't let them hurt each other, and keep longevity in mind.

Anonymous

"In this issue of Adbusters, we sift through the detritus of Western civilization to see what we can salvage. If you find something, let me know."

How about Videogames? movies? What about all of our art? There are thousands of people publishing home made art online. What about consumer culture? Some people actually enjoy it. They are just people, doing what our instincts tell us to do, consume. Just because you think it's wrong doesn't make it objectively so.

I can look through any issue of adbusters and see the same shit. The same monotonous disparaging statements and threats, unaccompanied by evidence.

You are dogmatic. And dogmatism renders any ideology dead no matter how dissident.

Let people do what they want to do. Just don't let them hurt each other, and keep longevity in mind.

a butterfly

They enjoy it? They are doing what they want to do? Of course they do and of course they are. Consumer culture is addictive and they are addicted.

Western society relies on its money, its consumable products, just as a heroin addict relies on his hits. Why else do people waste away their lives behind desks? They think they are buying a more pleasant, comfortable lifestyle, oblivious to the fact that they are paying for that lifestyle with the life that is supposed to be enjoying it. One can never be satisfied by consumerism. One can only chase the dragon.

Unfortunately, revolution inevitably returns to ritual. People need something to hook themselves on or they lose their way. The creature that is western Society will follow this path until it reaches the dead-end, then it will fall and rebuild itself as it sees fit. Nothing worth learning can be taught; we will only learn of our errors through experience. That is not to say that nothing good has come of our society, but certainly nothing good has come of consuming for the sake of consuming.

Good luck, nonetheless. Enjoy, 'doing what you want to do.'

a butterfly

They enjoy it? They are doing what they want to do? Of course they do and of course they are. Consumer culture is addictive and they are addicted.

Western society relies on its money, its consumable products, just as a heroin addict relies on his hits. Why else do people waste away their lives behind desks? They think they are buying a more pleasant, comfortable lifestyle, oblivious to the fact that they are paying for that lifestyle with the life that is supposed to be enjoying it. One can never be satisfied by consumerism. One can only chase the dragon.

Unfortunately, revolution inevitably returns to ritual. People need something to hook themselves on or they lose their way. The creature that is western Society will follow this path until it reaches the dead-end, then it will fall and rebuild itself as it sees fit. Nothing worth learning can be taught; we will only learn of our errors through experience. That is not to say that nothing good has come of our society, but certainly nothing good has come of consuming for the sake of consuming.

Good luck, nonetheless. Enjoy, 'doing what you want to do.'

Anonymous

I think it's a bad idea to make assumptions about the motives and relative insights of the vast group of people known as "consumers".

By the way, I work at a desk all day. I make art for a video-game company. I fill very fulfilled by my work. I don't just enjoy it, I feel like what I do is important, and contributes to the collective artwork produced by humanity.

What do you do that is so important? Oh wait I forgot, the universe is objective and is indifferent to human value judgements.

Anonymous

I think it's a bad idea to make assumptions about the motives and relative insights of the vast group of people known as "consumers".

By the way, I work at a desk all day. I make art for a video-game company. I fill very fulfilled by my work. I don't just enjoy it, I feel like what I do is important, and contributes to the collective artwork produced by humanity.

What do you do that is so important? Oh wait I forgot, the universe is objective and is indifferent to human value judgements.

Anonymous

"Let people do what they want to do. Just don't let them hurt each other, and keep longevity in mind."
How? By consuming each other to death?

Anonymous

"Let people do what they want to do. Just don't let them hurt each other, and keep longevity in mind."
How? By consuming each other to death?

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